Food shoppers typically list “taste” as their top consideration in purchase decisions, but a new survey shows “price” closing in. The 2011 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation shows taste holding its place on the top, with 87 percent of respondents listing it a priority in food-purchase decisions. But as economic conditions increasingly influence shopping trends, 79 percent listed price as a factor in their purchases. That figure represents a 6 percent increase over the IFIC’s 2010 survey, and a 15 percent increase since 2006.

The IFIC Foundation conducted the 2011 survey over two and a half weeks in March and April, gathering opinions from 1,000 American adults.

Other key considerations in consumer purchases include:

  • Healthfulness (66 percent)
  • Convenience (58 percent)
  • Sustainability (52 percent

The survey results also show some contradictions in how Americans perceive their diets and health. The number of respondents who perceive their diet as somewhat or extremely healthy rose from 53 percent in 2010 to 62 percent in 2011. And fewer respondents – 50 percent -- consider themselves overweight, compared with 57 percent in 2010. Other results though, would suggest their perceptions about weight may have changed more than behaviors that actually influence weight loss. Fewer respondents – 59 percent – reported making dietary changes in 2011, compared with 64 percent in 2010, and 43 percent described their activity level as sedentary, compared with 37 percent in 2010. Sixty-nine percent say they are trying to lose or maintain weight, a reduction from 77 percent last year.

Some other key findings from the 2011 survey include:

  • The number of respondents concerned with sodium intake remained stable from last year at 53 percent.
  • Sixty-one percent of Americans believe imported food is less safe than foods produced in the United States.
  • Half of Americans are extremely or somewhat confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply, similar to previous years.
  • Americans increasingly say they would rather hear what to eat – 63 percent – rather than what not to eat.  The interest in positive messaging rose 7 percent since 2009 when the survey last included the question.

One concerning result is that Americans appear to be slipping in their awareness of household food-safety practices. Seventy-nine percent of respondents indicate they wash their hands with soap and water when handling food, down from 89 percent in 2010 and 92 percent in 2008. Meanwhile just 71 percent report washing cutting boards with soap and water, down from 78 percent in 2010 and 84 percent in 2008.

Read more about the 2011 survey from the IFIC.